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Tuesday, April 11, 2000

Hawaii State Seal

Cayetano vows to
keep pushing for

Associated Press


Gov. Ben Cayetano says he'll continue urging the Legislature to approve more than $22 million to buy the historic Hemmeter Building because it's "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Cayetano said yesterday he believes "that as the members of the Legislature understand the facts behind the purchase, they'll be more supportive."

Legislature 2000 "Our feeling is that if we were to buy the building, that the rent we're paying today will cover the debt service on $22 million," Cayetano said.

The state leases 69 percent of the space in the ornate five-story building that was built in 1872 as the original Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

But the administration's financial reasoning didn't pass muster last week before the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which declined to put the money in its version of the supplemental budget bill.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Calvin Say (D, Palolo Valley-Kaimuki), said yesterday he believes the state might get an even cheaper price if it undertakes a "friendly" condemnation of the property.

Cayetano said he fears any effort to begin condemnation would drive up the $22 million price the state negotiated with the owner.

The building at Hotel and Richards Street is owned by BIGI Corp. of Japan, which bought it in 1990 for $82 million from developer Chris Hemmeter.

Hemmeter bought it for $11 million in 1987 and spent $30 million on renovations.

Besides buying the building, Cayetano has asked lawmakers for $3 million to create a state art gallery on a ground floor.

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